Throughout 2005, I participated in an online/e-mail course that was led by Kelly McGonigal. We were supposed on answer the question “Can yoga change your life?” Here’s my response:
Answering the question “Can yoga change your life?” is is a lot harder than I would have though 12 months ago — more complicated, more subtle, more covert. To answer it in one sitting is almost impossible since I have consciously chosen to nurture my silence as part of my practice. When I started the course, I was eager to lay out my experience for all to see. As my yoga experience has matured, deepened and broadened, I have become less concerned with writing about it explicitly.
This cure of silence is best summed up in my personal mantra — “let the yoga take care of it,” with “it” being whatever distraction, worry or whim is pulling me out of the present moment. That mantra sums up what has changed in my life in a year that seemed to swing me in opposite directions. At the worst moments (when I was literally in an employment limbo, not knowing if I was drawing a salary), I turned to my refuge in yoga, pranayama and meditation — and through my practice, I could return myself to a baseline of my intrinsic humanity, peace, and balance. By saying “Let the yoga take care of it” I recognize the hidden powers that I possess, and trust that I will eventually tap into them — or accept that the dynamic is beyond my control and that I just have to ride the moment.
Pattabhi Jois likes to say, “Yoga is 99% practice, 1% theory.” He may have his percentages wrong — or they may vary at different stages of your practice’s maturity — but the underlying principle is true: You just have to show up on the mat with the intention of practicing honestly and genuinely. You don’t even have to try hard. I found that I acquire a whole new vista on my practice when I decided not to push my effort to the max, that I should focus on being aware of my body and my breath. The more I practice, the more I am rewarded in unexpected ways.
Paradoxically, my mantra “let the yoga take care of it” has the opposite effect. By releasing me from my preconceived mindset, I gained a sense of freedom and control over my body, my mind and my life. For almost all of my life, I’ve felt as if I was at the mercy of forces beyond my control — that I was at risk of doing something wrong and I was often beset by a sense of impending doom. This self-imposed stress accentuated my own predisposition to depression. Since I did not know that I was depressed, my sense of helplessness and despair was even more intense. I always seemed to be battling from behind, at a disadvantage.
Since I started with yoga, pranayama and meditation, I feel that now I have the physical, mental and spiritual tools that allow me to manage my life, that allows me to restore my balance. I still get into trouble when I forget that I have these tools at my disposal. But since I get to go to yoga classes, they bring me back to my refuge.
I feel at a loss to express what’s going on inside me, but I am going to take another year of the online course, this time dealing with the Yoga of Connection.